When I was planning my trip to Sicily, I found it so hard to figure out where I wanted to visit. With only two weeks to enjoy the entire island (on a budget), I had to choose wisely.
Needless to say, Siracusa and the Island of Ortigia were excellent choices!
Siracusa sits in the Southeastern aspect of Sicily, and Ortigia is its walkable neighbor. You could easily stay in either place and explore both freely over a weekend.
But, to see what? Siracusa and Ortigia have a lot to see. These towns have profound historical significance dating back to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. To fully enjoy this part of Sicily, you must have some curiosity about ancient history.
Here are the top things to see and do while in Siracusa and Ortigia.
Planning your trip to Sicily? Consider modes of transportation and what may be best (and most cost-effective) for you!
Read up on transportation in Sicily before you go – you don’t want any surprises.
1. Explore Ancient Ruins
There are an insane amount of ancient ruins scattered around Europe, and you don’t need to spend an eyeball to see them. Many are affordable or free. Here are the best ones in Siracusa and Ortigia.
Neapolis Archeological Park
This is the biggest concentration of Greek and Roman ruins in the area. For 10 euro, you can walk through the park and see a well-kept Greek Theatre, a Roman Amphitheatre, and the Ear of Dionysus within the ancient quarry.
This area is a must-see. We bought our tickets on site.
Antico Foro Syricusano
A free but modest ruin of an ancient Roman forum. It sits inside the public garden of Corso Umberto in Siracusa.
This is an Ancient Greek ruin near the Temple of Apollo. Dionysus the Great built this as a gate to Ortigia.
It doesn’t stick out, but it is mind-blowing how you could be walking along the street and casually stumble upon something that is LITERALLY ancient.
Temple of Apollo
This ruin in Ortigia dates back to 6th century BC.
Let that sink right in.
Because it’s been reclaimed under many religious rulers, it is in a fragile state, but you can still see the columns and foundation pretty well. Visitation is free, and there are sometimes markets around the plaza if you catch them on the right day.
2. Visit Ortigia’s Fortress Castello Maniace
The citadel sits at the furthest point of the Island of Ortigia. It’s not as old as some of the surrounding ruins, but it has its own charm as a castle by the sea.
Although it can seem a bit bland on a usual day, there are rotating exhibitions in the castle that are said to be worth the 7 euros per adult.
If you’re a sucker for 700-year-old castle alongside the sea, you won’t regret your entry.
3. Walk By Beautiful Landmarks
Ponte Umberto I
This is the bridge that connects old town Siracusa to Ortigia. The bridge itself isn’t all that impressive. It’s the modesty of its surroundings that is most alluring: quaint fishing boats, fishermen doing their work. It’s refreshing.
Lungomare Di Levante
It refers to the walkway around Ortigia, where you can stroll along the water in an elevated walkway by the streets. There are many restaurants and stays along here.
Piazza Del Duomo
This is where you can find the Cathedral of Siracusa. It’s a large plaza with restaurants and shops.
If you look at the cathedral from the outside, you can see remains of Greek architecture before it was reconstructed into a Catholic Church.
Fontana Di Diana
Diana is the goddess of hunt and the protector of Ortigia.
Found in Archimedes Square, her fountain is a highly trafficked spot where you can find plenty of pizza, coffee, and gelato.
The statue in the fountain is beautiful in stone during the day, but lights up to many colors at night. I prefer how it looks in daylight.
4. Check Out the Religious History
Cathedral of Siracusa
As stated earlier, this was not the original architecture. It was converted from a Greek temple for Athena to a Catholic church, in which lies Sveva Chapel.
Because of its deeply rooted history, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is definitely worth seeing.
They do ask for a 2 euro entrance fee. Make sure you bring something to cover bare shoulders (no tank tops/strap dresses).
Chiesa dello Spirito Santo
Best to walk by this one to say you saw it. It’s a church dating back to 4th century which has been damaged by earthquakes and targeted by burglars for its treasures inside, which are no longer there.
Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista
Here’s a unique one – a church without a roof, but was obviously once a synagogue.
Is it more beautiful or terrible? May need to determine for yourself.
But only between June and September, because apparently the church is closed during the rest of the year.
Chiesa di San Martino
This is the oldest church in Siracusa. It has a bit of a mysterious feeling to it, likely because it’s the only church in the area with predominant gothic features.
Chiesa di San Filippo Apostolo
The final church in this list is the deepest one. It is literally 3 stories deep, including the underground tunnels that lead to an ancient synagogue and its Mikveh (ritual bath) and crypts.
The underground tunnels also sheltered 10,000 people during a WW2 bombing.
Guided tours are included with admission are offered every day except Sundays outside of winter months. Best to go early before lunch.
Bagno Ebraico/Mikveh of Siricusa
Another Mikveh was discovered only two decades ago during a hotel renovation.
It was hidden during the Spanish Inquisition in late 1400s.
They ask that you not take pictures. Tour times are every hour from 11 am to 6 pm. On Sundays or holidays, it is only open until 1 pm.
5. Go to the Market
The Mercato is pretty awesome. If I were to live in Ortigia for a month or so, I’d go almost every day.
This market is open 8 am to 1 pm every day except Sunday. You can find just about any food you need here – spices, produce, and meats/seafood – you name it.
But the MOST AWESOME part of the market is an older gentleman named Andrea Borderi at Caseificio Borderi. He makes, arguably, the best sandwich in the world.
I tried it. I honestly don’t remember how much it was, but I don’t think I particularly cared. It was the biggest, best sandwich of my life, and I will go back just to have it again.
6. Visit the Catacombs
The Catacombe di San Giovanni is the best kept catacomb and crypts in Siracusa.
For 8 euros, you explore the catacombs with a tour guide who will impress your socks off with all the information regarding the tombs. Tours last ~40 minutes. No pictures in the underground areas allowed.
Although there are no bodies to be seen, you can learn the importance of certain rooms and rituals along the way.
If this is on your list, plan to do this the same day as the Archeological Park as they are near each other.
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